A Warm Welcome: Getting to Know Our Writing Center Receptionists

Student Voices, Undergraduate Students, Writing Center Receptionists / Monday, December 2nd, 2019

By Jen Fandel

One of my favorite parts of my position as Writing Center Administrator is working with our undergraduate receptionist team. These are students who often come to us seeking employment early in their university careers, and, as the person who hires them, I highlight the Writing Center’s community as one of the many bright spots of the job. Not only do they join a cohesive group of helpful, word-loving people based in the Writing Center (consisting of academic staff, instructors, and undergraduate Writing Fellows), they also help build a broader community among all those who come through our doors at 6171 Helen C. White Hall.

For me, it’s an honor—and often a lot of fun—to work with our undergraduate receptionist team, and I feel lucky that so many of them stay in their positions for years. Not only does this provide continuity, it is also great from a training perspective—especially because of the vastness of the Writing Center’s resources and programs. Our receptionists quickly become experts on these. For instance, when an instructor calls to have someone from the Writing Center give a presentation to their class on writing proposals, our receptionists need to know to connect them with our Outreach Coordinator. Or, when a student is looking to work with an instructor on a longer project over the course of the semester (and sometimes beyond), the receptionists direct them to a Writing Mentorship. And then there are the daily schedules of our 50-plus instructors, our eight satellite locations, a full lineup of appointments at the main center, Skype and email instruction, plus 70-plus workshops! Additionally, given our website’s expansiveness (particularly the content in the Writer’s Handbook), people from all corners of the globe doing Google searches on APA citation format or how to write a resume, to name just two examples, quickly find us. Some of them even give us a call with questions. When our receptionists find out that the person on the other end is in the Madison area, they can refer the community member to Madison Writing Assistance. Our receptionists’ familiarity with all of our programs is a driving force in keeping the Writing Center running effectively day after day, through all kinds of weather—with smiles.

Beyond the practical, though, stands my joy at getting to know these bright, enthusiastic students as they journey through their college years. Let me get out of the way and let them introduce themselves.


Hi! I’m Lisa . . .

a senior studying Journalism (Strategic Communications track) and East Asian Studies. I’m passionate about creativity, diversity and delivering the voices of underrepresented communities which lead me to co-found ALT Magazine (check it out!). My hobbies include dancing, attending workshops and discussions, and eating good food with friends. This is my third year working at the Writing Center and I think it’s one of the best resources on campus. My favorite part of the job is connecting students to resources they didn’t know about or talking with students about their undergrad experience. The staff here is welcoming, knowledgeable and will go out of their way to help people—don’t be shy and make an appointment today!

Hi, I’m Eric!

I’m a sophomore studying Communications here at UW. I am a die-hard Packers and Badgers football fan and have a hidden talent in cooking. I love working at the Writing Center because of all of my wonderful co-workers (and the bagels on Thursday). I am a huge dog person and hope to get a goldendoodle after graduating from UW. I hope to work at the Writing Center all four years of college as it has been a wonderful and rewarding experience for me.

Hi, I’m Liz . . .

and I major in Communication Disorders. I started working as a receptionist at the Writing Center my freshman year at UW-Madison and continued throughout my sophomore, junior and, now, senior year. Time has flown by, and I will be sad to leave at the end of this school year! I have loved the opportunity to both work at the Writing Center and also get help from Writing Center instructors with various writing projects of my own!

My name is Samantha . . .

and I am a senior studying Journalism and Political Science. I am originally from New York and have enjoyed my time here in Madison. I started working at the Writing Center two years ago and have been having fun ever since! I like how I get to meet a lot of people, faculty and students alike, and talk to them about all sorts of topics, both related and not related to writing. There is no “typical” day at the Writing Center, so I like that I am able to work with a fun, kind group of people. In my free time, I like to travel, read (lately, I’ve been in to celebrity autobiographies), and watch Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

Hi, I’m Lily!

I’m a junior at UW-Madison studying Journalism, Political Science, and Jewish Studies. I am originally from Minneapolis but one day hope to live in New York City, writing for a late-night show! On campus, I am President of Sigma Delta Tau and Editor-in-Chief of Avukah: The Undergraduate Journal of Jewish Studies. A fun fact about me is that I am scared of soup. Also, my cat, Henry, is one of my best friends. 

My name is Gabe . . .

and I have been a receptionist at the Writing Center for about a year now. I am a business major, but I enjoy writing, so I thought the environment at the Writing Center would be perfect for me. Outside of work and school I enjoy relaxing with my friends, playing sports, and supporting the Vikings among the plethora of Green Bay fans I’m surrounded by these days. I love working at the Writing Center as I get to talk to people with completely different backgrounds, because everyone seeks help with writing no matter where they’re from. It’s fulfilling to be a part of the great yet difficult learning process that writing is.

My name is Grace, . . .

and I am a sophomore here at UW-Madison. I am currently a Pre-Kinesiology student, and I am applying to the Kinesiology Program with hopes of getting my Doctorate in Physical Therapy in the future. Some of my favorite things to do are reading, spending time with my friends and family, playing intramural volleyball and working at the Writing Center! I love working as a receptionist at the Writing Center because everyone who works here is extremely pleasant to be around and very willing to help you if you have questions. Also, when the desk is slow, you can work on schoolwork, which is great for college students with busy schedules.

My name is Farid . . .

and I’m a senior majoring in English. I’m also a Writing Fellow, even though my picture isn’t on the Writing Fellows board (the Writing Center poached my picture so now I don’t have proof of my Writing Fellowhood). As a Writing Fellow, I find it very interesting to be able to sit at the reception desk and see how our instructors conduct conferences. The Writing Fellows process involves being able to look at a draft ahead of time and thinking about what comments to make, so the Writing Center instructors who can do this on the fly have always amazed me. Also, sometimes people bring food for the students to have and put it right in front of me, so working in the Writing Center has also been a good test of self-control.

Our receptionists are vital to the smooth daily operation of the Writing Center, and I think that I speak for everyone here when I express the deep appreciation we have for their knowledge and dedication to the Writing Center’s mission of helping to build more confident writers. At the root of good communication is a willingness to listen carefully—with thoughtfulness and openness. Daily, our receptionists practice these fundamentals of effective communication, welcoming students in and helping, according to each individual’s need.  In these seemingly simple ways they cultivate community and underscore the Writing Center’s commitment to and respect for “the individual writer, whose talents, voice, and goals are central to all our endeavors.”

Jennifer (Jen) Fandel has worked as the administrator of the UW-Madison Writing Center since 2017. In this position, she wears many hats, including handling communications and marketing for the Writing Center’s programs. She has a background in creative writing and publishing. In addition to her teaching work at the Oakhill Prison, she has volunteered for a number of nonprofit literary and literacy organizations.